Double Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh & The Boy With Fire by Aparna Verma | An Alluring, Immersive YA Retelling and An Ambitious But Lackluster Fantasy Debut

Hello friends! Contrary to popular belief, I have not disappeared off the face of the earth, but I admit to disappearing of the face of the blogosphere because: school. My finals are coming up in a month’s time and to say that I’m nervous would be an understatement, so pardon my sporadic appearance, save for a few reviews I’m excited to share about!

Today, I’m finally writing my review of The Wrath and the Dawn, a YA fantasy that is well-loved, as well as The Boy With Fire, a new release that will bring out your inner arsonist. One completely captured my heart while the other broke it, especially with the comparison to The Poppy War.

THE WRATH AND THE DAWN by Renée Ahdieh

Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance | Age: Young Adult
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1

Published: 12 May 2015 | Read: 10 August 2021
No. of Pages: 404

Trigger Warnings ↴ Rape, killed animals, mention of suicide, attempted hanging, death of a friend, death of a parent

One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Goodreads | Amazon

REVIEW

The Wrath and the Dawn was such an enchanting story. It’s an alluring, swoon-worthy and immersive YA fantasy retelling of Tales from the Thousand and One Nights. Every night, the caliph takes a bride and at dawn she is found dead, hung by a silk cord. Shahrzad’s best friend falls prey to it and Shahrzad with a vow of vengeance volunteers to be the next bride.

I deeply appreciated many things about The Wrath and the Dawn, one of which would be Renée Ahdieh’s masterful storytelling. July/August has been a tough period for me and despite reading many books, I’ve found myself unable to fully get invested in one for a while, the past 10 books were all 3 stars and below, and finally I stumbled upon this gem and got sucked into this world.

“Some things exist in our lives for but a brief moment. And we must let them go on to light another sky.”

Ahdieh creates this world based on Iran I believe?. The atmosphere, the grandeur befitting of royalty as opposed to the vibrantness of the streets, with slights of magic were exotic and will pull you in. Her prose just flows and the dialogue whether it be rare glimpses of banter, bouts of tension or just meaningful conversations were enrapturing… never have I been so obsessed to the point of rereading several dialogues to savour their taste again!

The story, as did the stories interwoven, flowed well, the twists were excellent… the way that Renée Ahdieh poignantly and beautifully retold a classic tale is beyond words.

A true plague of a girl. And yet a queen in every sense of the word.

Art credit: @arz28

And the characters were incredibly well written as well. Shahrzad our protagonist is honestly such a character to behold. She’s strong, steadfast, empathetic, but not in your typical YA female way. She’s intrinsically flawed as well, but her mistakes made her better and though at the core her spirit endures, you can truly see how much of her world view and values are both clouded and given a new perspective.

Khalid was honestly more intense (and swoon-worthy haha) than I expected and I absolutely loved that he, like Shahrzad was not our typical brooding love interest, but instead one that yes was haunted but was given so much depth. I loved how his morality was questioned, and his decisions that shaped him truly explored. Truly a compelling character whose story gripped me and refused to let go!

Art credit: @emartsemi

A story is more than the two in the centre, it is carried by the interwoven storylines of the side characters as well and Renée Ahdieh was evidently keenly aware of this for she crafted such wonderful side characters. I won’t go much into them, but just mention that I loved how she established actual personalities for them, and gave them so much potential to expand in the sequel!

My soul sees its equal in you.

The friendships, kinship and in general relationships were gold but ah I have been withholding myself for I have been aching to talk about the romance since the start of this review! It’s been ages since I was that invested in a romance and I desperately need it to work out in The Rose and the Dagger or I’d be beside myself. The intensity as the feelings start to blossom, the mutual respect yet mangled with secrets and responsibility were all raw and just so precious I honestly don’t know what to say now it’s just too consuming I loved it.

“What are you doing to me, you plague of a girl?” he whispered.
“If I’m a plague, then you should keep your distance, unless you plan on being destroyed.” The weapons still in her grasp, she shoved against his chest.
“No.” His hands dropped to her waist. “Destroy me.”

I shall end this review feeling intoxicated yearning for the romance. The Wrath and the Dawn in my opinion is an excellent example of a YA masterpiece that fuses both incredible storytelling as well as complex characters and relationships together, I’m dying for the sequel.

rating // ★★★★

Other Reviews to check out: Sam @ Literary Delirium

THE BOY WITH FIRE by Aparna Verma

Genre(s): Fantasy | Age: Adult
Series: Ravence #1

Published: 31 August 2021 | Read: 9 August 2021

Trigger Warnings ↴ Immolation, self-immolation, death of loved ones, burning

Dune meets The Poppy War in Aparna Verma’s The Boy with Fire, a glorious yet brutal tour-de-force debut that grapples with the power and manipulation of myth in an Indian-inspired epic fantasy.

Yassen Knight was the Arohassin’s most notorious assassin until a horrible accident. Now, he’s on the run from the authorities and his former employer. But when Yassen seeks refuge with an old friend, he’s offered an irresistible deal: defend the heir of Ravence from the Arohassin, and earn his freedom.

Elena Ravence prepares to ascend the throne. Trained since birth in statecraft, warfare, and the desert ways, Elena knows she is ready. She only lacks one thing: the ability to hold Fire. With the coronation only weeks away, she must learn quickly or lose her kingdom.

Leo Ravence is not ready to give up the crown. There’s still too much work to be done, too many battles to be won. But when an ancient prophecy threatens to undo his lifetime of work, Leo wages war on the heavens themselves to protect his legacy.

The first of The Ravence Trilogy, The Boy with Fire is the tale of a world teetering on the edge of war and prophecy, of fate and betrayal, of man’s irrevocable greed for power — and the sacrifices that must come with it

Goodreads | Amazon

Thank you to Netgalley and New Degree Press for an e-ARC of The Boy With Fire in exchange for a sincere review.

REVIEW

The Boy With Fire, an Indian inspired fantasy pitched as Dune meets The Poppy War, without a doubt was an ambitious debut that promised a myriad of tropes many of us in the bookish community crave, as well as an #OwnVoices perspective more of us gravitate towards.

character art by  Ngoc
character art by Ngoc

Alas, it disappointed.

The Boy With Fire follows Elena, a young ruler ready to ascend to the throne, Yassen, an assassin on the run after an accident, as well as Leo, the current emperor of Ravence.

Perhaps it was thanks to my surreal expectations with it being compared to my favourite fantasy series of all time: the Poppy War, or perhaps it was because I read it in a few sittings and skimmed through it… whatever it was, I hardly remember anything and 50% in was resisting the temptation of a DNF.

The stars would come and go. Fire was eternal.

Perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh so let me start off with what I appreciated: The world-building at first seemed a little stagnant, with your typical rival nations, social class difference in each and traditions, however it soon burned brightly (pun not intended) thanks to the prophecies and mythology interwoven into the plot such that the theme of religion was prominent. The phoenix, vengeful gods, raring fire were such a force to be dealt with and truly played a huge role in heightening the tension.

As he stared at the heap of bodies, Leo felt something integral leave him… but as he slowly rose to his feet, he knew it wasn’t his fear or his remorse, but his humanity.

character art by  Ngoc
character art by Ngoc

However, what good is brilliant world-building when you have stale and inconsistent characters? Those that you can barely remember the names of a few days later, or those that didn’t even manage to reign in any bit of your heart after hundreds of pages with them? The characterisation was poor, I quickly recognised typical tropes of the royal, the terrible deed character with tragic past so on and so forth…

I was expecting some life to be breathed into these tropes, but throughout the book, these characters remain rather stale (lol this is my favourite word to describe this book), and even worse, their character suddenly shifting dramatically to suit the situation which I found rather unbelievable. With instances of death and atrocities that should have visibly change the characters, only repetitiveness and insincerity was offered.

Furthermore, the pacing of this story was terrible. I understand that fantasy books tend to take a while to set up and carefully shape the world, but come on who likes a story devoid of any true game-changing action until the 70% mark? I was bored and skimmed through the book, only to come out confused when things finally started to pick up.

…the power of myth. Give the people something to believe in. Make it strong enough, fearsome enough, and they would all bow.

However, my greatest disappointment in The Boy With Fire would be the lack of themes. Perhaps this is just my expectation for the book, but I felt that this adult fantasy had great potential to examine certain themes such as power, fate and equality that it failed to deliver. The world-building as well as the religious aspect, not to mention the character dilemmas set this book up beautifully for the exploration of these themes, but all The Boy With Fire did was skim surface level on them.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh on a debut the first of the series, but I sorely felt that these themes of power when dealing with the gods as well as the ruling of the kingdom through constructs, fate in the different characters’ trajectories as well as equality ingrained into the very model of the world, could have greatly enriched the story, giving it more meaning and purpose.

Someone once told me that ghosts are memories that haunt us before we can let them go.

Overall, The Boy With Fire was a terrible disappointment for me that I felt had so much more to offer. Despite the brilliant world-building, the stale characters, lack of pacing and most of all the absence of any true depth underneath the typical fantasy plotline, caused it to be an aching let-down for me.

rating // ★½

Check out other reviews for The Boy With Fire: Mesal @ Earthly Abode | Azu @ Book a Fiction

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Have you read The Wrath and the Dawn? Are you planning to pick up The Boy With Fire? What are some fantasy novels that you enjoyed (and were disappointed by) this year? Also update me, how has everyone been?

20 thoughts on “Double Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh & The Boy With Fire by Aparna Verma | An Alluring, Immersive YA Retelling and An Ambitious But Lackluster Fantasy Debut

  1. this was a great double feature! i fully agree with you on that the characters in the boy with fire were a little lackluster, and could have been given more depth and emotion in order to make readers love them. the part you mentioned about themes, though, is an angle that never occurred to me before (but one which will remain in my mind while i read other books). thank you for linking my review! ❤

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  2. Oh, I’m glad that you enjoyed The Wrath and the Dawn! I didn’t enjoy it very much, it felt very weird that she came to the palace to avenge her best friend and then ended up falling in love with the person who killed her…I don’t like those kinds of books, they’re just really weird to me, and also all the emphasis on love felt like it was more geared towards romantic love, based on the context, which made me sort of uncomfortable. BUT I suppose this isn’t the right place to be spewing all my complaints haha so it’s good to hear that you liked it! I’ve not heard of The Boy With Fire before, but it sounds interesting and it’s really too bad that you didn’t enjoy it! I hate when books disappoint us like that.
    As for how I’ve been, I mean nothing much has been happening, I know you saw that I celebrated my blogiversary, but other than that, nothing much!

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  3. i was fully hyped for the boy with fire but after the author kinda spit on the romance genre as a whole on twitter, I’ve been wary of the book. and apparently, I’m not missing much 😬 yay for liking the wrath and the dawn, and hopefully your future reads are better than the boy with fire!

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  4. Thanks for linking to my review.

    Also, your review has really made me want to read TWATD as soon as possible now. And I am so sorry you didn’t enjoy TBWF. I gave it 4 stars initially, but it’s more like a 3 stars for me now that I think about it. I liked the sci Fi fantasy blend but the plot and character both were a little bland. And I don’t see a father daughter relationship much in fantasy books so that part really had me because of personal reasons. This was such a nice post overall Cherelle ❤️

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  5. i’m sorry about the boy with the fire! it’s always a shame with something you’ve been looking forward to doesn’t hit the mark.
    i’ve been meaning to read the wrath and the dawn. i’ve owned both books since they came out, but never had the time to get around to it. i’m glad you enjoyed it!!

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  6. I was so disappointed by The Boy With Fire and dnf’ed! Like you, I was fooled by the comparison to The Poppy War (didn’t enjoy The Wrath and the Dawn either, I was expecting a lot more from Shahrzad’s character and thought the romance happened way too easily)
    This is a very well-written double review and so interesting to read ❤

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  7. OKAY FIRST I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THAT OUR VIEWS ON THESE TWO BOOKS MATCH AHAHAHA shazi and khalid were soooo good i loved the dynamic and the writing!! lovely review cherelle 💛💛 and tbwf just flopped so bad :// i truly wish i could’ve enjoyed it better given it was indian inspired but oh well….

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  8. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the boy with fire 😦 a lot of my friends don’t like it either.. hahaha I’m probably never picking it up

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  9. Loved reading both these reviews! I loved The Wrath and The Dawn so much, and your review really made me want to reread it. and i’m sorry you didn’t enjoy The Boy With Fire, I’ve heard a lot of people echo your thoughts so you’re not alone in not liking it!

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  10. A delightful collection of reviews Cherelle! We have pretty similar thoughts about TWATD, the characters are so well developed! Sorry to hear The Boy With Fire didn’t meet your expectations :/ its showing up a lot in my feed recently and the cover always catches my attention. Loved reading your thoughts on these books! ✨

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  11. I’ve read polarizing thoughts on TWATD. I’m still skeptical but feel a bit convinced to pick it up. I like reading novels that doesn’t solely delve on the MCs and gives a voice to the side characters as well. I have a TBWF eARC and have to read it soon. Both your reviews were splendid. Can’t wait to read the books!

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  12. Ah I can’t wait to delve into the wrath and dawn. I have heard so much from and I totally agree with your thoughts on the boy with fire. It’s incredibly ambitious and the marketing done by the author is exceptional honestly. But there was just something very important and the art work is stunning no doubt. But yeah, it was indeed lacklustre. Thankx for sharing cher. 💜✨

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